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Boy genius ready for bigger things

by Joe Duggan, Lincoln Journal Star
Originally published March 8, 1998

NEAR VENANGO — The kid looks like any 7-year-old. He bounces through the house with unlimited energy. He wears jeans, a comfy shirt and has tousled brown hair. His cheeks and nose are splayed with freckles from summer afternoons spent under the western Nebraska sun.

But there are signs that Brandenn Bremmer isn't like other kids his age. In his upstairs bedroom, a Batman and Robin spread covers his bed. But on the wall — where you might expect to see a Michael Jordan poster — hangs a periodic table of the elements.

His warm forwardness disarms adults because it's unexpected coming from someone so young. His impeccable diction — his voice caresses every word as if he were reading from the pronunciation guides in Webster's — enhances his broad vocabulary.

Then there's the way his bright, blue eyes cloud — with frustration, anger, maybe sorrow — when an adult talks down to him the way adults do when they're talking to a 7-year-old boy.

"He's just like another adult living with us," says his mother, Patti Bremmer.

Martin Bremmer explains his son another way. "He's an adult with a boy's experience."

Statistics say one in a million people have an IQ that measures 180 or above. Brandenn Bremmer may be one.

Two years ago, he traveled from his family's farm near Venango — a tiny farming town just a spit and a holler from the Colorado border — to visit a facility for profoundly gift- ed children in Denver. He took an IQ test ... that he didn't quite finish.

His score: 178. Those who score 150 or above are called genius. He's no Rain Man. He won't dazzle an audience with displays of mental gymnastics and feats of mathematics. And although he possesses intelligence that could change the world, his future is anything but certain.

His past is brief, but profound, considering the changes it made in the lives of his parents.

Martin Bremmer came from Colorado in 1988 to make a living on this farmstead settled by his great-grandparents a century before. Soon after, he met Patti Davidson, who bred and raised racing greyhounds on a nearby farm. They married after a whirlwind romance. Brandenn arrived within a year. They had inklings their infant son was intelligent.

One day, when he was just 18 months old, they found out for sure. Patti was working at her home office. In an effort to occupy her son, she sent him to a nearby pile of magnetic letters on the floor.

"I told him to bring me the blue ‘A' and, he came back with a letter," she recalls. "Then I told him to bring me the green ‘E.' Then I looked and he was bringing me the right letters."

Patti stopped what she was doing and started calling for more letters. With the exception of two, he identified every letter correctly.

"I ran outside screaming, ‘Martin, he can read the alphabet.'"

Martin and Patti didn't know what to do. Martin's mother suggested they try to determine whether their son was gifted. They knew nothing about gifted education.

"It was Greek to us," said Martin, whose inquisitive nature and easy- going mannerisms make him immediately likable.

"We wanted to encourage his learning, but we didn't know where to go."

It would be four years before Brandenn could go to kindergarten. Then they found out about the Nebraska Association of the Gifted in Lincoln and learned how to find books and professionals that could answer their questions.

Meanwhile, Brandenn accelerated. He started to talk at an early age and began to read when he was 2. And he wasn't just saying words. He understood and remembered them. He could recite Dr. Seuss at the drop of a cat in a hat.

His physical coordination also developed quickly. By the time he went to preschool at 3, he could smack a pitched baseball or hit a golf ball without a hint of hook or slice.

The public school system in Venango wasn't equipped to educate Brandenn. Teachers suggested his parents enroll him in kindergarten, where he would be "slowed down" so he could fit in with the other kids. They decided to teach him at home.

Long before that decision, the Bremmers had been using workbooks they bought at Wal-Mart. They stepped up the home school- ing, which required some big changes in their lives.

To lessen their reliance on the risky business of farming, they opened dance studios in Imperial and Holyoke, Colo., which Patti managed from their home. They transformed the greyhound kennels into pet breed kennels.

Martin continued to operate their organic farm while taking on another job at a neighboring farm.

Early on at the Bremmer home school, lesson time was quite unstructured. Brandenn would more or less decide what he wanted to learn and Patti would work with him.

Brandenn, like most profoundly gifted children, learns in leaps and bounds. He engulfs a subject, masters it and then moves on. A personal computer with the latest interactive software is his portal to intellectual landscapes far beyond western Nebraska.

Brandenn's brain seems to operate in kinetic overdrive, and the computer's speed of delivery suits him well. While moving to a more urban setting might seem an option in educating Brandenn, living on a place that's paid for allows the Bremmers to schedule their work lives so Patti can be home during the day. And right out the front door lies one of the best classrooms imaginable — a working farm.

Working with livestock has taught him principles of biology. The greenhouse and wheat field have given him practical experience with botany. Everyday tasks in dog breeding offer hands-on instruction in several fields of science. He also studies dance and plays the piano.

From memory, he plays a familiar classical tune. "It's Mozart," he says nonchalantly. "First movement theme from "Ein Kleine Nachtmusik.'"

It has been 5 years since Brandenn correctly identified those magnetic letters. Martin and Patti Bremmer, who knew nothing about gifted education, are practically experts now.

The jargon of high-intelligence learning and conceptual thinking rolls off their tongues as easily as bushels per acre. With the courage and confidence any parents display when trying to do what's best for their child, they have undertaken a huge task.

They're using a high school curriculum developed by the Distance Learning Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It's possible that Brandenn will have his high school diploma in two years.

What's he supposed to do then? Blow out the nine candles on his birthday cake and head to Harvard? "How many years do I have before he's off?" Patti Bremmer asks.

At his mother's request, Brandenn pulls himself from the computer. He answers a few more questions, then he bolts for the stairs to his bedroom.

It's as if his body mimics the speed of the synapses firing in his head. He returns with a laser gun game. Soon the house is filled with phaser zaps and electronic explosions.

He careens from behind doorways and lands with a thud on the floor as he jumps to avoid an opponent's shot. Pandemonium reigns.

Kid genius? Yeah, but at this moment, he's just a kid.

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